Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Will Smith is on the verge of becoming a perennial All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but that hasn’t been enough to avoid from being mistaken for the much more famous Hollywood actor who suddenly has found himself embroiled in a scandal.
During the Oscars on Monday night, Will Smith won the Academy Award for best actor for his role as Richard Williams in “King Richard.” But just prior to being announced as the winner, Smith walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face.
Smith took exception to a joke Rock made about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has shaved her head after being diagnosed with alopecia — a disease that causes hair loss.
The incident was promptly followed by a social media debate about whether Smith assaulting Rock was completely out of line or justified for the situation.
While the Dodgers’ catcher was in no way involved, he did receive comments on Twitter praising him for defending Jada from people who mistook him for the actor who was involved in the situation, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
#Dodgers Will Smith is celebrating his 27th birthday today by being mistaken for that other Will Smith. Said he didn’t see the “Slap Heard Round the World” live but started getting mentions on Twitter from people telling him how great it was that he stood up for Jada that way
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 28, 2022
While Smith is already one of the best catchers in baseball, he still has a long way to go to share the same level of fame as the actor who shares his name.
It is unlikely the Dodgers’ Smith will reach that level of global fame, but he is still not done improving as a player. The 27-year-old has been gaining confidence on how to handle a pitching staff with so many talented players.
Smith, who was snubbed from the ALl-Star Game last season, was recently ranked as a top-3 catcher by MLB Network’s The Shredder and came in fourth on Buster Olney’s rankings.
Among catchers with at least 600 plate appearances since 2019, Smith ranks first in wRC+ (135) and wOBA (.373), second in on-base percentage (.365), third in slugging percentage (.527) and FanGraphs’ WAR (7.5), fourth in xwOBA (.361), sixth in home runs (48) and seventh in batting average (.262).
Smith hit .258/.365/.495 over 130 games last season, posting career highs in doubles (19), triples (two), home runs (25) and RBI (76). He also performed well in the postseason, going 11-for-44 with two doubles, three home runs and four RBI across three series.
Smith focused on “one pitch at a time” with large pitching staff
L.A. used a franchise-record 37 different pitchers throughout the season in 2021, with some remaining on the roster the entire year and others making an appearance or two and before being replaced.
The one constant was their pair of backstops, Smith and Austin Barnes, who had to manage and learn each pitcher so they could get on the same page with all of them.
While that has the potential to be overwhelming for any catcher, Smith explained communication with each pitcher and the coaching staff were key and not trying to do too much each pitch has helped him improve behind the plate.
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